The first race of the rest of Tony Stewart’s career resulted in a 17th-place finish in an All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car race on Thursday at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
The next races in Stewart’s ambitious and attempted incognito schedule will occur Friday and Saturday at the same mid-Florida track, Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. Stewart, a three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and co-owner of SHR, owns the All-Star series for 410 winged sprint cars.
Stewart has not publicly outlined his racing schedule for this year but said he plans to undertake as many as 80 sprint car and Late Model events.
On Thursday, Stewart finished 17th in the 26-car A main event after advancing by finishing second in the preliminary race and ended the night arguing with a fellow driver and complaining with officials. Donny Schatz, Stewart’s teammate, won the event.
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Stewart refused photo and autograph requests in breaks between events, telling those who asked that he would do it all after the finale.
He eventually did, well after he climbed out of his car, walked to the scoring trailer and complained that fellow driver Chad Kemenah blocked him at the start of the 30-lap race. Stewart then hopped on a four-wheeler and drove through the pits to confront Kemenah. Stewart shook his head and waved his hand at Kemenah during their exchange.
Stewart hadn’t competed in sprint cars — a long-time love that helped launch his versatile career — since striking and killing competitor Kevin Ward Jr. on the track during an Empire Super Sprint Series race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park in 2014. Stewart was cleared of any wrong-doing as Ward, who walked toward Stewart’s car under caution, was found to have used marijuana within five hours of the race. A civil suit is on-going, however.
Stewart declined comment after Thursday’s main event out of respect for the Ward family and later told The Associated Press he didn’t want his racing to even appear like he’s “rubbing it in the Wards’ faces.”
Ward’s mother, Pamela, told the AP on Thursday that the family could not comment on Stewart until the civil suit they’ve filed is over. She said a date for the trial, which will be held this year in Utica, New York, has not yet been set. The Wards are seeking unspecified damages.
Ward also said she was unaware Stewart was returning to sprint car racing.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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